Seun Anikulapo Kuti and the Egypt 80 - From Mighty Africa with Fury: Rise - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Seun Anikulapo Kuti and the Egypt 80 - From Mighty Africa with Fury: Rise

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2011-06-23

This is Seun Kuti's second album with The Egypt 80, the band led by his late father, the legendary Nigerian Afrobeat artist Fela Kuti. It's also produced by Brian Eno, whose affection for African music is well known, raising the possibility of a strange cocktail of influences, something akin perhaps to Eno's Afro-influenced collaboration with David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Anyone coming to From Mighty Africa... with that notion will be disappointed. Instead, Seun is continuing his father's legacy of fleet-footed Afrobeat, funk and soul mixed with defiantly political lyrics.

However, it seems to be Fela Kuti's later, more troubled work which is the greatest influence on his son. Kuti Snr's early to mid-70s work with his legendary, incendiary band Afrika 70, held together by superlative drummer Tony Allen, produced dazzling, genre-spanning music over which Kuti hopped and jived like a sexy, revolutionary-minded imp. Their most famous work, 'Zombie', poked fun at Nigeria's notoriously corrupt army and brought severe, horrific repercussions down on Kuti, his band-mates, friends and family. What made the song so intolerable to the authorities was the mischievous way Kuti tore into them.

Such wit and levity is in short supply on From Mighty Africa.. although the music remains as slick and funky as you would expect. Musically, there's nothing to criticise here, although Egypt 80 never hit the transcendent heights of Afrika 70, the trailblazer for this kind of music. Jams such as 'Slave Masters' and 'Good Leaf' are nimble and fluid but do nothing unexpected. Eno seems to have been relegated to the role of mere documenter, as he did with the no wave scene. It's a role he was probably happy to play but it just makes you wonder what kind of album this could have been had he taken a more active role. The bottom line is that this is heritage music now, all the more so considering the Seun's pedigree.

It's laudable that Kuti Jr has kept his father's political passion alive, and there's no doubt that the revolutionary lyrics he hollars on 'Rise' and 'African Soldier' are deeply felt but the sloganeering is both relentless and artless. "We have to rise up against the petroleum companies," he declares on 'Rise' and you have to think, no matter how correct that sentiment is, there must have been a more artful way of putting it. This is music as nothing more than vehicle for political message, and while that might work well with an unimaginative three chord punk thrash, here it does a disservice to such complex, vibrant music. Only on the Spartan, jerking 'Mr Big Thief' does message and music merge, as Kuti employs the same Pidgin English singing/talking style as his father to communicate his ire in a percussive, stinging way. Than again, with such a title you can't pretend you don't know what your getting.

It's not unusual for the child of a iconoclast to struggle, and often fail, to forge an artistic identity of their own. Seun Kuti doesn't really seem to be trying, instead putting his efforts into curating and embodying his father's legacy. That means that while From Mighty Africa.. displays some great musicianship and righteous political fury, it's for Afrobeat completists only.

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